Researchers enrolling moms-to-be in Camp Fire study

Mountains at dawn

Bio-Specimen Assessment of Fire Effects (B-SAFE) Study aims to reveal how wildfires affect the health of pregnant women and their babies

Pregnant woman and child

 

Researchers from the Environmental Health Sciences Center are conducting a study to learn how the 2018 Camp Fire and its smoke affected pregnant women and their babies. The study is a continuation of research already underway in the Bio-Specimen Assessment of Fire Effects (B-SAFE) pregnancy study, which began last year after wildfires hit the North Bay during the October 2017 Fire Siege.*

For this new phase of B-SAFE, researchers are enrolling women who were pregnant and living in Northern California when the Camp Fire struck on November 8, 2018.

“Very little is known about the health impacts wildfires have during pregnancy,” says Rebecca J. Schmidt, the lead scientist for the study and an assistant professor in Public Health Sciences at UC Davis. “Our goal is to collect information and biological samples that can help us understand what women were exposed to and how that exposure affected them and their babies.”

Participants will fill out a survey providing information that may help researchers better understand what pregnant women were exposed to and how they were affected, including whether they evacuated or wore a mask, and what symptoms they had. The survey takes about 40 to 60 minutes to complete.

The UC Davis B-SAFE research team will also ask mothers to collect samples of hair, toenails, and saliva for themselves and their babies. Moms-to-be living in Colusa, Butte, El Dorado, Glenn, Nevada, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba or Placer counties will get a home visit from the UC Davis B-SAFE research team, who will collect samples of hair, blood, saliva, toenails and urine from them, placenta and umbilical cord blood at delivery, as well as breast milk and baby saliva and toenails at a postnatal visit. 

Schmidt says the study team will try to enroll women earlier in pregnancy than was possible during last year’s wildfires, and complete up to two visits before delivery to learn how their health changes over time and across their pregnancy. The research team will also enroll postpartum women to learn how their health changes after they deliver. Women who are currently pregnant will be contacted first and postpartum women later.  

Women who agree to a home visit and provide bio-specimens for the study will be compensated. And all women completing the survey portion of the study in person or online will be automatically entered into a raffle to win a $100 Target gift card. Ten gift cards will be raffled in August 2019 and 10 in December 2019.

Urban wildfires

The Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history, killing 88 and burning almost 150,000 acres and 19,000 structures. It came fast on the heels of last year’s devastating wildfires in Northern California, which also affected Butte County.

The Camp Fire spread rapidly and its smoke blanketed most of Northern California for weeks, creating air quality so hazardous people were told to stay indoors for days on end. With climate change, these types of wildfires are expected to grow, burning bigger and hotter each year.

Experts say recent wildfires in Northern California are particularly concerning because they took place in urban areas where thousands of structures made of synthetic materials burned. The chemical composition of the smoke and ash from these urban wildfires could be potentially more toxic than grassland or forest fires.

The B-SAFE study is part of a larger effort by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to better understand and respond to wildfires and other environmental disasters. The Environmental Health Sciences Center is currently conducting several research projects on wildfires funded by the NIEHS.

*Recruitment for the 2017 North Bay wildfire study has ended.